What does the SSPX do?
Since 1970, the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) has formed priests according to the immemorial teachings of the Catholic Church. By offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the traditional Latin rite and administering the sacraments according to the traditional rites in vigour in 1962 (before the Second Vatican Council 1962-5), the Society’s priests perpetuate what the Church has done throughout its history. By the exercise of the teaching office of its priests, the Society fights against the errors that presently afflict the Church; our struggle was clearly enunciated by our founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, in 1974:
- We refuse...and have always refused...the neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant tendencies which were clearly evident in the Second Vatican Council and, after the Council, in all the reforms which issued from it.
- All these reforms, indeed, have contributed and are still contributing to the destruction of the Church, to the ruin of the priesthood, to the abolition of the Sacrifice of the Mass and of the sacraments, to the disappearance of religious life, to a naturalist and Teilhardian teaching in universities, seminaries and catechetics, a teaching derived from Liberalism and Protestantism, many times condemned by the solemn Magisterium of the Church.
This article presents the major issues and summarises the positions of the SSPX which are those of the perennial teachings of the Church.
The most visible and, in some ways, the most important achievement of the Society of St. Pius X has been the maintenance and safeguarding of the traditional Latin Mass. Had the Society not formed priests to celebrate this Mass throughout the world, it would be difficult to imagine other religious and priestly communities being given permission to do so. We now rejoice that this Mass, which has its roots in apostolic times, which sanctified saints across the centuries and which was codified by Pope St. Pius V after the Council of Trent, is now being celebrated by more priests and more often than at any time since the introduction of the new rite of Mass in 1969 (the New Mass).
Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum confirmed that the old rite was never abrogated and accords permission for its use, but it does so on the understanding that one’s attachment to it is merely aesthetical. There is no acknowledgement of its obvious doctrinal superiority and its spiritual fecundity relative to the New Mass. Lex orandi, lex credendi: the law of prayer is the law of belief. The old rite is born of, supports and fosters the old doctrine. The new rite is born of, supports and fosters a new doctrine. Because of this, the Society has always opposed the New Mass, not primarily because of the abuses it so easily allows, or because of the vernacular in which it is usually celebrated, but because of the new theology that its prayers enunciate.
(Recommended reading: Pope Paul's New Mass by Michael Davies.)
The doctrinal reservations that the Society maintains concerning many of the documents of the Second Vatican Council and subsequent documents from Rome (including the new Catechism of the Catholic Church), is what distinguishes the Society from other groups that offer the traditional Latin Mass.
At the Second Vatican Council, many novel ideas were introduced in an attempt to "update" certain Catholic principles to the “realities” of the modern world. One of the most heated debates took place in the discussions on Dignitatis Humanae, the Council document on religious liberty. Since the period called the Enlightenment (18th century) until the Second Vatican Council, the Church condemned the notion that man has an inalienable right to practise a false religion in public if it was the religion of his conscience. The Catholic Church always maintained until the Second Vatican Council that no man has a right to publicly practise a false religion, but that a false religion may be tolerated in those states where to ban it would upset the public peace. If a man is considered to have a fundamental right to publicly practise a false religion, then one must defend his right to lead souls from the truth, to lead souls away from Jesus Christ.
(Recommended reading: Religious Liberty Questioned by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre: The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty by Michael Davies)
Until the Second Vatican Council, the position of the Church regarding other religions was clear: the Catholic Faith is the only true religion, and outside of the Catholic Church there is no salvation. The goal of apostolic activity, therefore, was to bring lost sheep back to the fold so that our Lord's desire "that they all be one" might be fulfilled. Since the Second Vatican Council, however, the emphasis has been on rejoicing about what we have in common with our separated brethren while remaining silent on what divides us. Of course, when trying to win souls for Christ, it is important to know what doctrines non-Catholics share with Catholics, but, as we saw at Assisi in 1986, if one does not do whatever is possible to convert these lost souls, one can very easily offend against the law of charity, to say nothing of neglecting our duty as Catholics to proclaim the truth.
The decline in conversions to the Church in any particular country is in inverse proportion to the rise in "interfaith dialogue,” shared religious ceremonies, and emphasis on "shared values."
(Recommended reading: Mortalium Animos by Pope Pius X; Satis Cognitum by Pope Leo XIII; and From Ecumenism to Silent Apostasy by The Society of St. Pius X.)
The primacy of the Bishop of Rome is a dogma of the faith which has been believed since the Age of the Fathers and was defined at the First Vatican Council in 1870. The Church is a monarchy, with the Pope ruling the bishops, the bishops their priests, and the priests their faithful. This notion of the Church's constitution and source of authority has come under attack many times throughout her 2000 years from the Orthodox, the Conciliarists, the Protestants - all for different reasons and with different arguments. But the Church has maintained her principles and structure from the beginning. During debates at the First Vatican Council, liberal thinkers and prelates wished to emphasise the role of the bishops by promoting the idea that supreme authority resided in the bishops acting in collegial unison with pope. This erroneous view was rejected by the First Vatican Council, but was then accepted at the Second Vatican Council.
The Society of St. Pius X has opposed this error, which has provoked (rather ironically) the accusation that we are schismatic. As many national bishops' conferences now act as if they are independent of the Holy Father, we pray that they return to the perennial Catholic teaching of the Church on this issue.
(Recommended reading: Open Letter to Confused Catholics by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre)
The Crisis in the Church
- Today the Church is going through a moment of disquiet. Some practice self-criticism, one would even say auto-demolition. It is like an inner, acute and complex disturbance such as no one could have expected after the Council… Pope Paul VI Allocution to the Students of the Lombard Seminary, 7th December, 1968
- We believed that after the Council would come a day of sunshine in the history of the Church. But instead there has come a day of clouds and storms, and of darkness....How did this come about? We will confide to you that maybe, we ourselves admit in free discussion, that may unfounded, and that is that there has been a power, an adversary power. Let us call him by his name: the devil. It is as if from some mysterious crack, no, it is not mysterious, from some crack the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God. Pope Paul VI, Sermon, 29th June, 1972
- At the root of this loss of hope is an attempt to promote a vision of man apart from God and apart from Christ.... European culture gives the impression of "silent apostasy" on the part of people who have all that they need and who live as if God does not exist. Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in Europa §9
- Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church?... What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! ...Lord your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. Cardinal Ratzinger, Meditation on the Third Fall of Our Lord, Lent, 2005
The Answer: Tradition
- We place ourselves under God's providence. We are convinced that God knows what He is doing. Cardinal Gagnon visited us twelve years after the suspension: after twelve years of being spoken of as outside of the communion of Rome... They said we have done well. Thus we did well to resist! I am convinced that we are in the same circumstances today ...We are convinced that all these accusations of which we are the object, all penalties of which we are the object, are null, absolutely null and void, and of which we will take no account. Just as I took no account of the suspension and ended up being congratulated by the Church and by progressive churchmen, so likewise in several years –I do not know how many, only the Good Lord knows how many years it will take for Tradition to find its rights in Rome we will be embraced by the Roman authorities, who will thank us for having maintained the Faith in our seminaries, in our families, in civil Societies, in our countries, and in our monasteries and our religious houses, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre Consecration Sermon, 30th June, 1988